Steps to Buying a Car in the Digital Age [Infographic]

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Though car models have changed since the first Model T hit the market, the steps to buying a car is just like it was during the glorious days of Packard’s “Ask the Man Who Owns One.”. The only difference is a car buyer’s experience is enhanced by the wide access to reliable resources—like friends, family, and online reviews—to influence their purchase decision. This nifty infographic spells out what the car buyer is thinking and looking for during the pre- and post-purchase phases of the cycle.

Car buyers, on average, go through a ton of research and prep before sealing the deal. They ask friends and family for all sorts of advice, hit up their social networks for information, and search the web for reviews from customers—versus brand-generated content—to help them make a decision they’ll be happy with. All this hard work goes into creating a smart and happy car buyer, that, with the right experience at the dealership, is willing to be loyal brand advocate post-purchase. This is a big win for car dealerships and auto makers everywhere.

addthis-auto-infographic-car-buying-2014

  • Ken Wiebe

    You’ve obviously never worked in the automotive industry as this post is just a bunch of fluff.

  • Sorry you feel that way, Ken, but this is what our data shows from across a network of 14 million websites. We’re interested in hearing what you think is factually incorrect in our findings.

  • Like2Detail

    I think that this is a nice way to quickly look at how the buying process has evolved. I’ve spent 19 years in a mid-sized Toyota store and believe that this is pretty accurate. It’s rather general and could be much more in depth but it’s an interesting thought starter for dealers that still believe that you need traditional “salespeople” to be successful. I feel that most dealers are stuck in their month to month mindset and fail to look at the long term benefits of social networks and blogs (when used correctly).

  • http://ecarpak.wordpress.com

    Wonderful post, Thanks for sharing

  • Dan

    I don’t think Ken said it was incorrect. He just said it was fluff. To be honest I kind of agree. There is some fairly detailed research out there on purchase cycle – which makes your “destination” themed road look pretty lightweight. Not sure what the weird traffic lights and timings device is all about either. There’s a load more, but I can’t be bothered to go into it. C- from me. And that’s being generous.

  • Thanks for your feedback, Dan. Our infographic was based on the social data we receive from our network to provide website and content managers with tips that would be useful when generating content for their target audiences. So the traffic light is actually representing the types of devices (desktop, tablet, phone) where the target audience is most engaged. Happy to talk more about this if you’re interested, but hopefully we were able to clarify that one point.

  • Thanks for chiming in! We’re glad to hear you thought the infographic was useful. :)

  • cleesmith

    For the record, I was considering a Lincoln until I kept seeing those stupid commercials with Matthew McConaughey, That’s not the image I wanted for myself. So advertising still plays an important role.

  • aeklund

    Sorry, but if you didn’t buy a car you actually liked because of an actor, that’s not exactly typical consumer behavior.

  • cleesmith

    Um sorry, if I didn’t buy a car because I didn’t like it’s image, that absolutely is typical consumer behavior.

  • aeklund

    I believe you’re giving the ad agency too much credit.

  • cleesmith

    And I believe you – and this survey – is giving it too little. We’ll just have to disagree on this one.

  • When it comes to buying cars, I am–like many more people these days, I hope–a functionalist. I ask myself what a new-to-us car needs to do and then narrow down the choices using the best information sources I can find. And, among others, my top resources are: friends, Consumer Reports, safety and MPG statistics–but most importantly, the Yakima Racks website and Fit List. (Which Yakima Racks and accessories a vehicle can fit as well as the vehicle’s overall load capacities–for bikes, skiing, cargo, etc.–is a primary screening tool.)

    In addition to checking online sources, I check in with friends plus my local auto repair shop owner and his mechanics for their recommendations: these people know me and know how we have used our cars…

    This infograohic was OK, but it told me nothing new about the changes in buying habits–except that most people are too willing to drive too far to buy a car. (Why drive that far for anything? Shopping local is much better for our carbon footprint…It’s also why we bought a Prius–used–to replace our 1998 Ford station wagon–AFTER I learned from Yakima’s website, Fit List, and extensive phone calls and emails with Yakima staff–that I could, indeed, carry up to 6 bikes and cargo on it using a hitch-mount 4-bike rack and a roof rack…)

    “Measure twice, cut once.”

  • Ken Wiebe

    It sure would have been nice if you hadn’t deleted my response.

  • Not the entire story of course but a nice infographic. We all know that motorists should do thorough homework before they make such an expensive purchase but many don’t. Some buy on price regardless of the common-sense fact that a lesser rated car will carry a bigger discount (for good reason). Others think it’s like buying a household item like a settee as in ‘let’s go and buy a car today’. Otherwise why would there be so many people owning/driving second rate cars that perform badly whereas they could have bought a much better car, a bit more expensive perhaps, which is more reliable/safer and performs consistently better in customer satisfaction surveys? If everyone did their homework some brands and models would be left on the shelf. So motorists can still be better informed in my opinion… And those who don’t know any better will usually feel the need to recommend their cars to save face etc. So not always the best informed source before shopping…

  • Jennifer

    Actually, I’d say this is pretty accurate – not as someone in the automotive industry, but as a consumer (you know… one of the people the article is actually talking about).

    We’ve bought 3 cars in the past 4 years. And, speaking personally, this is a good summary of the behaviors and motivations behind all 3 of those sales. And we’re just average, run-of-the-mill, middle-class family.

  • Looks like your response was caught in the spam filter. We found it, and it’s posted below.

  • dhgolfer78

    It’s much easier to lose a buyer than it is to capture one. With all of the consumer choices available and all of the noise provided by the OEM, the distribution channel, by social media and peer reviews, it’s very easy to quickly eliminate a product from consideration. Specifically in the auto industry, you can be eliminated from consideration because your landing page doesn’t speak to the customers needs in the first few seconds. Purchasing habbits are now ruled by consumer experience. To cleesmith’s point, the ad agency could take months to sway a consumer to transact, but they can eliminate their product from consideration in a 30 second spot. Customers are more fickle than ever!

  • As someone buying a new car at the moment, I’d describe it as pretty accurate actually. Honestly, if we could have test-driven the cars without talking to a dealer we would have. None of the sales people knew anymore than we already did – in fact it was the other way around, we told them things about almost every car we looked at that they didn’t know… One of the salesperson actually turned us off the car we liked the most and off his brand entirely, which is unfortunate because we used to have one of the same brand and it was a great car.

  • Jesus Martinez

    @Ken, do you work for an auto dealer?

  • M

    Chemicals and the interiors of cars is becoming important. I don’t want a smoker’s car, and new car smell is the worst. I try to look for cars that don’t reek inside of smoke or plastics/glues

  • Ken Wiebe

    For the last 30 years, I have worked in sales/marketing and advertising with over a decade of those in the automotive industry.

  • rippa700

    Steph – second rate to you may be just right for me – maybe I want cheap and cheerful and am good enough at running repairs to fix the odd glitch. Or maybe I like really extravagant over the top cars. We all research our own foibles and do not come to the same conclusion.

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  • Bryan Garabrandt

    @Ken I agree with Mathew. I just bought a new SUV and not only did I research every possible option within my price range online, but by doing so I eliminated several options without even test driving them. Moreover, I applied for financing online and had a committed price and payment worked out before I ever test drove the vehicle I ultimately ended up purchasing. I did this because I was absolutely disgusted and tired of the traditional way of car buying which is:
    walk onto the lot, test drive the vehicle, tell the sales person I want the car and this is how much I am willing to pay monthly for it and then sit for 2 hours while the sales person comes back and tries to hard sell me a dozen different deals that are all MORE than what I said I was willing to pay.

    By getting all of this out of the way prior to physically showing up on the lot I was done with everything and has keys in my hand for the agreed upon price in 1/4 of the time it normally takes to haggle a deal.

    I too have an extensive career in marketing and ALL of it has been in digital/online and data analysis with five years and counting in the automotive industry. I can tell you with some degree of certainty that online research has sky rocketed in the past 5 years as it pertains to purchasing an automobile. Moreover, internet sales is the fastest growing division in car dealerships across the US. I have personally analyzed the data.

  • Bryan Garabrandt

    @Ken I agree with Mathew. I just bought a new SUV and not only did I research every possible option within my price range online, but by doing so I eliminated several options without even test driving them. Moreover, I applied for financing online and had a committed price and payment worked out before I ever test drove the vehicle I ultimately ended up purchasing. I did this because I was absolutely disgusted and tired of the traditional way of car buying which is:
    walk onto the lot, test drive the vehicle, tell the sales person I want the car and this is how much I am willing to pay monthly for it and then sit for 2 hours while the sales person comes back and tries to hard sell me a dozen different deals that are all MORE than what I said I was willing to pay.
    By getting all of this out of the way prior to physically showing up on the lot I was done with everything and has keys in my hand for the agreed upon price in 1/4 of the time it normally takes to haggle a deal.
    I too have an extensive career in marketing and ALL of it has been in digital/online and data analysis with five years and counting in the automotive industry. I can tell you with some degree of certainty that online research has sky rocketed in the past 5 years as it pertains to purchasing an automobile. Moreover, internet sales is the fastest growing division in car dealerships across the US. I have personally analyzed the data.

  • FabioMilheiro

    The important thing here is: You worked in sales/marketing for 30 years and 10 of those in the automotive industry which, don’t get me wrong, valuable. But what this article shows is that something just started to happen in a different way. This is not a 30 year phenomenon.

  • Spanka

    I think Ken & AddThis data are both are correct – it IS fluff, but the info shown is the same across every industry. What it represents though is something that should be common sense to all business/brand/site owners…

    TLDR: Stop marketing better (disbelief), start being better (word of mouth & social)

    Advertisers have smashed us with advertising for years. Like, politicians, no one believes them anymore. Too many lies & half truths. You cannot supply something endlessly and expect it to not devalue.

    The takeaway from this graphic is real simple for brands:
    • Your potential customers don’t care about what you say
    • They don’t even care much for what you say you do
    • They care about what others have said about what you are and what you do
    • The major kudos you can earn from company-generated content is to be as transparent and honestly informative as possible.

  • kapil sreedhar

    what is told about in the post is absolutely true…i had done everything you mentioned in the post before buying a car. a comment coming from a end buyer and user of a swift car!

  • kapil sreedhar

    yep…enjoy those beautiful rides….

  • kapil sreedhar

    isn’t Tesla also having the same online purchase system?

  • kapil sreedhar

    well ken customer choices change with time =D

  • evans chibanda

    pace before one love!

  • Thanks for chiming in, Jennifer!

  • ryan

    Exactly! Check out idrivecarclub.Com

    No dealerships. Wholesale pricing. Delivered to your door.

  • Kia of Auburn

    Very solid read thank you for sharing this! The digital age sure has improved the car industry as far as advertising goes for sure. The options in car buying are also made quite easy which a lot of customers probably enjoy.

  • Indeed! Thanks for reading :)

  • Bessler Auto Parts

    Nice, easy to understand guide. Thanks for sharing!

  • Oasis Chevrolet

    Great infograph to show the process of buying and selling a car. Best advice is to just be open and honest in the deal.

  • Miller Auto Plaza

    This is an informative info graph. Thanks for sharing and putting the time into making it. And it’s true, a good reputation is worth the drive to many loyal customers.

  • It’s easier than ever to buy a used car, and even easier to maintain it with the plethora of online options and apps available out there.

  • Eastern Motors

    Excellent steps, luckily it’s actually easier than ever to buy a used car with the sheer amount of online outlets for browsing and comparing reviews of used cars and how they hold up over time.

  • Nice infograph! Yes, this is information that we should all know, but it’s always nice to get a reminder!

  • Nice try to explain in graphic form

  • Eastern Motors

    info-graphics are always a nice touch especially for buying a car people can get a real visual and actually image themselves making a purchase. Very useful indeed!!

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  • Bessler Auto Parts

    Very cool imagery shared here to display the entire step by step process in buying a car in the digital age. It’s interesting to see how the entire process of buy buying is evolving.

  • That’s why you need to know beforehand what you want, how much you can spend, and how far you’re willing to go to get it.